The Story of Circles

Danae Pauli and Michelle Clayman

In 2013 Michelle Clayman, MBA ’79 and Danae Pauli, MBA ’12 piloted the first GSB Women’s Circle in New York. Danae and Michelle were convinced that through our shared experience at Stanford GSB and a commitment to connecting deeply in small groups, alumnae could uniquely support each other to thrive through life’s ups and downs.

In life, there are many opportunities to connect with peer sets in different contexts – work cohorts, affinity groups, mom’s groups or other groups formed around a shared interest or activity. Few of these options offer the opportunity to connect deeply outside your personal network across generations. So, Michelle and Danae determined to create a structure for small groups of alumnae to offer mutual support, and to test the concept of circles.

Following a successful pilot, GSB alumnae in other regions welcomed the opportunity to form circles, and participation spread rapidly in the community of GSB women. Within four years, Womens’ Circles were active in nine regions in the U.S. and in one region internationally, with plans for further expansion in building a community of thriving GSB alumnae. The success of the Stanford GSB Women’s Circles inspired Harvard to follow the Stanford GSB’s lead by organizing circles for their own alumnae.

Our Values

We are committed to four core values:

  • Connect: We are committed to being fully present and open to building deep relationships across differences. We look for the inclusion of all voices, empathy and mutual respect. We look out for each other’s personal and professional well-being.
  • Reflect: We courageously tackle big questions about living meaningful lives. We create space and time to honor what matters most to us and reflect on why.
  • Support: We are committed to support in many forms — giving full attention to each other’s concerns, being curious and open to different perspectives, and at times, challenging each other.
  • Inspire: GSB alumnae are inspiring and interesting women. We all benefit from our collective wisdom as we embrace risks in pursuing thoughtful lives with impact.

Stanford GSB Support

Stanford GSB provides robust support for this program by:

  • Creating the communication platform and the infrastructure for circles
  • Supporting open houses and all-circle events
  • Hiring master facilitators to train circle co-leaders and provide ongoing support
  • Carrying out strategic expansion of the program to new geographic locations